Greece on Edge
|George Friedman||July 14th 2015|
A desperate battle was fought last week. It pitted Germany and Greece against each other. Each country had everything at stake. Based on the deal that was agreed to, Germany forced a Greek capitulation. But it is far from clear that Greece can allow the agreement reached to be implemented, or that it has the national political will to do so. It is also not clear what its options are, especially given that the Greek people had backed Germany into a corner, where its only choice was to risk everything. It was not a good place for Greece to put the Germans. They struck back with vengeance.
The key event was the Greek referendum on the European Union's demand for further austerity in exchange for infusions of cash to save the Greek banking system. The Syriza party had called the vote to strengthen its hand in dealing with the European demands. The Greek government's view was that the European terms would save Greece from immediate disaster but at the cost of impoverishing the country in the long term. The austerity measures demanded would, in their view, make any sort of recovery impossible. Facing a choice between a short-term catastrophe in the banking system and long-term misery, the Greeks saw themselves in an impossible position. Read more ..
|George Friedman||July 9th 2015|
The Shanghai Composite Index fell 6 percent on July 3, rounding out a 28 percent decline since June 12, when the country's stock markets peaked. The deterioration occurred despite intensive government efforts to stabilize prices and revive investor sentiment. Overt attempts by Beijing included cutting benchmark interest rates and reserve requirement ratios and loosening restrictions on investor access to margin loans, in addition to less overt moves, such as direct interventions to prop up the market with government-backed purchases of blue chip stocks. On Friday, in a clear bid to win investor confidence in its oversight abilities, the securities regulator announced it would investigate signs of potential market manipulation. Yet so far, Beijing's efforts have failed to achieve the desired effect of stimulating, or at least stabilizing, China's leading stock markets. Read more ..
Greece on Edge
|George Friedman||July 7th 2015|
In a result that should surprise no one, the Greeks voted to reject European demands for additional austerity measures as the price for providing funds to allow Greek banks to operate. There are three reasons this should have been no surprise. First, the ruling Coalition of the Radical Left, or Syriza party, is ruling because it has an understanding of the Greek mood. Second, the constant scorn and contempt that the European leadership heaped on the prime minister and finance minister convinced the Greeks not only that the scorn was meant for them as well but also that anyone so despised by the European leadership wasn't all bad. Finally, and most important, the European leadership put the Greek voters in a position in which they had nothing to lose. The Greeks were left to choose between two forms of devastation â€” one that was immediate but possible to recover from, and one that was a longer-term strangulation with no exit. Read more ..
|Scott Stewart||June 25th 2015|
In recent weeks, I have found myself spending a lot of time thinking about the jihadist strategy of al Qaeda and how it compares to that of the Islamic State. Earlier this month, I wrote about the possibility that the al Qaeda brand of jihadism could outlast that of the Islamic State. Last week, I wrote about how ideologies are harder to kill than individuals, focusing on the effect that the death of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Nasir al-Wahayshi will have on the group and the wider global jihadist movement.
But beyond the impact of leaders like al-Wahayshi, there are other facets of strategy that will influence the war for the soul of jihadism. Specifically, I am talking about time and place. Both al Qaeda and the Islamic State seek to establish a global caliphate, but both differ quite starkly in how to accomplish this task and how soon it can be achieved. Read more ..
Israel on Edge
|Richard Horowitz||June 11th 2015|
Cutting Edge contributor
This Monday the U.S. Supreme Court decided on Zivitofsky v. Kerry, a case which determined that a U.S. citizen born in Jerusalem can only have the city listed on his U.S. passport as his place of birth, and not Jerusalem, Israel.
In 2002, Menachem Zivitofsky was born in Jerusalem; his American mother requested of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to list his place of birth as Jerusalem, Israel, in accordance with Section 214(d) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 2003 which states for â€œpurposes of the registration of birth, certification of nationality, or issuance of a passport of a United States citizen born in the city of Jerusalem, the Secretary shall, upon the request of the citizen or the citizenâ€™s legal guardian, record the place of birth as Israel.â€ Read more ..
Greece on Edge
The deadline for a deal to resolve Greece's ongoing drama seemed to be pushed back last week. But new stresses could appear as early as this week if there is no noticeable progress on the talks.
Last week Greece decided to combine the four debt payments it owed to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in June â€” worth about â‚¬1.5 billion ($1.66 billion, Â£1.09 billion) collectively â€” into one, which will be due at the end of the month.
That delayed for three weeks the payment that was owed Friday and meant Athens could wait longer for a bailout deal. But at least according to some analysts, that will be little to no relief in the tense talks.
Much of the timeline actually remains the same, as Bank of America Merrill Lynch researchers pointed out in a note, titled "Brinkmanship in Greece: fasten your seat belts," on Monday morning. Read more ..
Europe on Edge
|George Friedman||May 26th 2015|
Last week I began this series with a Net Assessment of the World, in which I focused on the growing destabilization of the Eurasian land mass. This week I continue the series, which will ultimately analyze each region in detail, with an analysis of Europe. I start here, rather than in the Middle East, because while the increasing successes of the Islamic State are significant, the region itself is secondary to Europe in the broader perspective. The Middle East matters, but Europe is as economically productive as the United States and, for the past 500 years, has been the force that has reshaped the world. The Middle East matters a great deal; European crises can destabilize the world. What happens between Greece and Germany, for example, can have consequences in multiple directions. Therefore, since we have to start somewhere, let me start with Europe. Read more ..
|Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu||May 12th 2015|
The pro-Israel Canadian government may be planning to include boycotts of Israel as a hate crime, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported Monday.
It said that such a move would target organizations such as the United Church of Canada, Canadian Quakers, campus protest groups and labor unions. It also would raise legal questions under Canadaâ€™s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Canadian Prime Stephen Harper is unarguably the most pro-Israel head of any government in the world. He sounded like an echo of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during his visit to Israel last year.
Recently-retired Foreign Minister John Baird in January signed an agreement with Israel to fight the Boycott Israel movement, and government ministers have said they will show â€œzero tolerableâ€ towards groups that are part of Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS). He described the Boycott Israel movement as â€œthe new face of anti-Semitism.â€ Read more ..
Financing the Flames
Former Associated Press reporter Matti Friedman on Tuesday wrote a scathing criticism of the recently issued report from NGO Breaking the Silence on the conduct of Israeli soldiers during last summerâ€™s Gaza war.
In an extended Facebook post, Friedman blasted the report, and simultaneously tried to put it in context.
Friedman began by addressing testimony presented by Israeli soldiers in the report, to the effect that their compliance with the laws of war was much more lax than it should have been. He noted that â€œWar is awfulâ€ and â€œpeople come back feeling upset about things theyâ€™ve seen and done. Some observers are reliable, and others arenâ€™t.â€ He said that â€œSome of the things described in the report no doubt happened as they were described. Others didnâ€™t. Infantrymen at the bottom of the hierarchy often donâ€™t understand what theyâ€™re seeing, or the reasons for what theyâ€™re doing, and Iâ€™m speaking from experience.â€ Read more ..
Turkey on Edge
"We would view an insult or humiliation against an Alevi citizen or an adherent of any other religion as an insult against all of us, and won't accept it." The powerful line is from a speech by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Nov. 23. So nice. If only the reality were not worlds apart from the fairy tales Davutoglu keeps on telling.
Davutoglu's Putin-Medvedev-style master, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is notorious for his Sunni supremacist (and anti-Alevi) views. During his election campaign in 2011, he reminded tens of thousands of party fans at rallies in seven different cities that his political rival and main opposition leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, was an Alevi. "You know, he is an Alevi," Erdogan told crowds in a cynical way while thousands booed "the Alevi Kilicdaroglu." In that election, Erdogan's votes in all seven cities rose from the previous election. Read more ..
Turkey on Edge
|George Friedman||April 27th 2015|
The United States is not about to be weighed down by the historical baggage of the Caucasus. To Turkey's pleasure and Armenia's regret, U.S. President Barack Obama did not utter the word "genocide" on April 24 when he commemorated the 100th anniversary of a massacre of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks. Obama is not the Pope; he is the president of the United States, and the global hegemon appears to be in tune with its geopolitical instinct.
A great deal of diplomatic energy has been exchanged between Washington and the Turkish and Armenian lobbies in recent weeks. Not only have decisions had to be made about what word to use to describe the historical event, but there are also questions about the level of official that should attend the Armenian commemoration versus the Turkish commemoration for the Battle of Gallipoli. Read more ..
|David Rothkopf||April 18th 2015|
President Barack Obama and other administration officials touting the qualities of the interim nuclear accord with Iran regularly cite â€œsnap-backâ€ provisions as a fail-safe within the agreement. The idea is that, if Iran violates the terms of the deal, sanctions that otherwise would be lifted as a reward for entering into the arrangement would immediately be reimposed.
It is an appealing idea. Whatâ€™s more, it is a necessary one if anyone anywhere is to believe that the deal is truly enforceable. However, as former U.S. secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Shultz pointed out in their recent thoughtful, constructive critique of the interim agreement that appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the notion that somehow a button can be pushed and the entire panoply of multilateral and bilateral sanctions that have been put in place over the past dozen or so years to put pressure on Iran would suddenly be back in force strains credulity. Read more ..
The 2016 Vote
|Juan Williams||April 13th 2015|
The most stunning political news of the year to date is last weekâ€™s revelation that a group of super-PACs has already raised $31 million to support the presidential bid of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
Read more ..
And last week also brought the most intriguing political news of the year â€” the federal indictment of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). The heart of the prosecutorâ€™s case against Menendez is that a PAC donation by a wealthy donor amounted to a bribe to get the senator to use his office to help the businessman avoid federal fraud charges.
Menendez denies wrongdoing, as does the businessman.
The bigger point, however, is that there is no restraint on the amount of big money suddenly flowing into political action committees. In addition, anonymous money pouring into non-profit groups affiliated with candidates is reaching flood levels.
And donâ€™t forget the unprecedented big money being raised directly for each of the 2016 presidential campaigns.
America and Latin America
|Luis Fleischman||April 7th 2015|
Center for Security Policy
On April 10 and 11, the Summit of the Americas will take place in Panama. More than 35 heads of state are expected to participate, including the president of the United Sates, Barack Obama and the Cuban leader, Raul Castro. The theme of the summit is â€œEquality and Prosperityâ€ which will give room for countless speeches highlighting the importance of equality, the fight against poverty, and other related issues. However, what really highlights this summit is that it is taking place in the aftermath of the new U.S./Cuba agreement.
Thus, this summit will not only have at its center, the heads of state and their often meaningless speeches but will also include civil society groups. These groups will be there and will bring back the elephant in the room: the question of democracy. Read more ..
The Edge of Tolerance
|Douglas Murray||April 5th 2015|
What would the U.S. President say if the blacks lynched in America's old South were referred to as "random folks" or "Americans"?
Al Shabaab of course has no problem emphasizing the fact that Christians were being killed because they were Christians: "There are many dead bodies of Christians inside the building," its spokesman said.
Can anyone explain why the West gives fanciful excuses for what these killers are doing, despite their perfectly clear explanations for what they are doing?
Muslims targeting Christians or Jews means, "don't focus on the motivations of the Muslims." Muslims defending Christians or Jews means "desperately focus on the motivations of the Muslims."
People could at least spare some time this Easter to think about -- and do anything they can to help -- the beleaguered Christian communities worldwide. Read more ..
The underlying flaw in the new nuclear understandings between the P5+1 and Iran is the fact that it leaves Iranâ€™s vast nuclear infrastructure intact. Indeed, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif boasted, after the understandings were announced, that Iran did not have to close down a single nuclear facility, it will continue to engage in uranium enrichment, and it can engage in research and development (meaning it can develop new generations of centrifuges that operate at 10 or 20 times the speed of the first-generation centrifuges that have been installed in uranium enrichment plants like Natanz and Fordow). Read more ..
|George Friedman||April 2nd 2015|
Read more ..
The Obama administration has slipped past self-imposed deadlines and minced words over red lines before. Although certainly an embarrassment for the White House, another missed deadline in the seemingly never-ending Iran nuclear negotiations â€” which stretched beyond the latest deadline of March 31 â€” may not matter much in the end.
From Iran's point of view, it was a deadline to be exploited, not one to fret over. Iranian leaders, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, had expressed misgivings about a framework agreement, insisting that the deal is not done until all core issues are resolved in a final deal. The White House imposed the March deadline to prove to Congress that enough progress was being made to hold off on sanctions. Still, a dodged deadline and a diluted progress report are unlikely to calm dissenters in Congress. Even if a bill calling for additional sanctions in the event of a violation of an agreement makes its way through Congress, it will be vetoed in the Oval Office. Congress overturning that veto is a less likely prospect.
South of the Border
|Luis Fleischman ||March 17th 2015|
Center for Security Policy
On March 9th President Obama issued an executive order implementing The Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014, which he signed last December 18th. This measure blocks the property and interests in property of seven top Venezuelan government officials and would also block the property and interests in property of any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State.
The presidential order has imposed sanctions on mostly the top echelon of the state security apparatus in charge of the repression during the 2014 anti- government demonstrations.
Although, this executive order is a good first step, it omits to punish the president, his cabinet and his closest civilian aides. Likewise, punitive measures are not being applied to lower ranking officers who have committed human right violations despite the fact that human rights organizations have provided names and details about these individuals and their transgressions. Read more ..
Russia and Europe
|George Friedman||March 12th 2015|
As part of our analytical methodology, Stratfor periodically conducts internal military simulations. This series, examining the scenarios under which Russian and Western forces might come into direct conflict in Ukraine, reflects such an exercise. It thus differs from our regular analyses in several ways and is not intended as a forecast. This series reflects the results of meticulous examination of the military capabilities of both Russia and NATO and the constraints on those forces. It is intended as a means to measure the intersection of political intent and political will as constrained by actual military capability. This study is not a definitive exercise; instead it is a review of potential decision-making by military planners. We hope readers will gain from this series a better understanding of military options in the Ukraine crisis and how the realities surrounding use of force could evolve if efforts to implement a cease-fire fail and the crisis escalates. Read more ..
Financing the Flames
|Edwin Black||March 12th 2015|
The controversial New Israel Fund and its social change and political lobbying organization known as SHATIL, have received more than $1 million from the State Department under a program designed to create political change, reform, and activism in the Middle East. The government program, Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), has extended more than $600 million in grants to political and social activists and reformers in 18 Middle East countries, mainly with unstable or challenged political environments in need of democratic improvement. â€œMEPI supports organizations and individuals in their efforts to promote political, economic, and social reform in the Middle East and North Africa,â€ according to the agency's official self-description.
The list of nations in which MEPI operates includes such countries as Algeria, Libya, Lebanon, and Yemen.
However, MEPIâ€™s sphere of engagement includes Israel â€” ironically the only pluralistic, stable, and democratic nation in the Mideast. Among the leading recipients for MEPI grants in Israel is the New Israel Fund and its SHATIL organization. The NIF is an international, US-based 501(c)(3) charitable organization which has generated intense acrimony within the Jewish community and Israeli establishment for its highly politicized activities.
While MEPIâ€™s involvement with the New Israel Fund has been previously reported in print and online, the million-dollar nature of the partnership has not emerged until now.
Vocal critics in both the US and Israel charge that the New Israel Fund has knowingly financed groups that support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) movement, and worked to get Israeli soldiers prosecuted for so-called "war crimes." Benny Yanay of an Israeli military organization called Consensus, representing some 3,000 members of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), stated, "The New Israel Fund acts against Israelâ€”against the soldiers of our country. It is supported by foreign governments and organizations so that Israeli soldiers will be weakened." Other Israel military men and women have alleged that the NIF is trying to "destabilize the IDF." Read more ..
|Nancy Menges and Luis Fleischman||February 28th 2015|
As negotiations move forward on a nuclear arms agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, the United States along with the P5+1 appears to be oblivious to activities of Iran in the Western Hemisphere and other regions of the world.
In the Middle East, Iran has most recently supported insurgencies in both Bahrain and Yemen. The pro-Iranian Houthis just overthrew the American backed government in Yemen which we were working with on terrorism related issues.
In Syria, Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah, continue to support the Bashar Al Assad regime with Hezbollah fighting together with Assadâ€™s forces. So far 200,000 people have been killed in Syria with millions dispersed in refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey. Hezbollah now has a perfect excuse to be involved in supporting Assad by invoking the need to defeat the bloody Islamic State. Hezbollah may think that this card could play well in the West which is trying to avoid direct intervention to defeat ISIS and would prefer that local forces to do the fighting. Read more ..
Russia on Edge
|Reva Bhalla ||February 24th 2015|
By Within the past two weeks, a temporary deal to keep Greece in the eurozone was reached in Brussels, a cease-fire roadmap was agreed to in Minsk and Iranian negotiators advanced a potential nuclear deal in Geneva. Squadrons of diplomats have forestalled one geopolitical crisis after another. Yet it would be premature, even reckless, to assume that the fault lines defining these issues are effectively stable. Understanding how these crises are inextricably linked is the first step toward assessing when and where the next flare-up is likely to occur.
Germany and the Eurozone Crisis
Germany has once again become the victim of its own power. As Europe's largest creditor, it has considerable political leverage over debtor nations such as Greece, whose entire livelihood now depends on whether German Chancellor Angela Merkel is willing to sign another bailout check. Lest we forget, Germany is exporting more than half of its GDP, and most of those exports are consumed within Europe. Thus, the institutions Germany relies on to protect its export markets are the very institutions Berlin must battle to protect Germany's national wealth. Read more ..
The World on Edge
|George Friedman||February 17th 2015|
In recent weeks, we have been focusing on Greece, Germany, Ukraine and Russia. All are still burning issues. But in every case, readers have called my attention to what they see as an underlying and even defining dimension of all these issues â€” if not right now, then soon. That dimension is declining population and the impact it will have on all of these countries. The argument was made that declining populations will generate crises in these and other countries, undermining their economies and national power. Sometimes we need to pause and move away from immediate crises to broader issues. Let me start with some thoughts from my book The Next 100 Years.
There is no question but that the populations of most European countries will decline in the next generation, and in the cases of Germany and Russia, the decline will be dramatic. In fact, the entire global population explosion is ending. In virtually all societies, from the poorest to the wealthiest, the birthrate among women has been declining. In order to maintain population stability, the birthrate must remain at 2.1 births per woman. Read more ..
Europe on Edge
|Soeren Kern ||February 15th 2015|
"Wherever it goes now, in many respects PEGIDA has already served part of its purpose, in starting a debate on immigration, citizenship, and integration that has been silent for decades.... Perhaps it could even kick-start a new era of openness and discussion in Britain too." â€” Oliver Lane, British commentator.
The future of the German grassroots anti-Islamization movement known as PEGIDA has been thrown into doubt after a leadership split resulted in key members leaving the group.
Only 2,000 people attended a weekly rally held in the eastern German city of Dresden on February 9, a sharp decrease from the 17,000 who assembled at the previous rally held on January 25.
PEGIDA â€” named after the German abbreviation for "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West" â€” has been organizing "evening strolls" (Abendspaziergang) through downtown Dresden on Monday evenings since October to protest against runaway immigration and the Islamization of Germany. Read more ..
The Edge of Tolerance
|Ben Cohen||February 13th 2015|
Twenty-three advocacy groups have signed a letter to Linda Katehi, the Chancellor of the University of California, Davis, demanding an investigation into Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), an antisemitic organization that has continually harassed Jewish and pro-Israel students on campuses across the United States.
The letter, organized by the AMCHA Initiative, was triggered by instances of antisemitic graffiti on the UC Davis campus just days after the student government, on January 29, passed an anti-Israel divestment resolution written and promoted by SJP. Following the resolutionâ€™s passage, a Jewish fraternity at UC Davis was spray painted with swastikas. In addition, anti-Semitic graffiti was discovered at the Hillel House. Authorities said a janitor found the words, â€œgrout out the Jews,â€ etched into the bathroom wall.
â€œWhile we commend you for already taking some important steps in addressing these problems, we urge the university to conduct a full investigation into the conduct of the registered student group called Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and one of its members, Azka Fayyaz,â€ the letter declared. Read more ..
The World on Edge
|Ian Morris||February 12th 2015|
At an event in Beijing last November, I had the good fortune to meet the French economist Thomas Piketty, who has sold 1.5 million copies of his book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, since it was first published in 2013. Pacing up and down in front of a packed auditorium, Piketty explained that because the rate of return on capital is now higher than the growth rate of the global economy, the proportion of the world's wealth that is owned by a small elite will likely keep increasing; in other words, we should expect to see a divergence of wealth as the rich get much richer. As his book says, "capitalism automatically generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities that radically undermine the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based."
No strategic forecaster can afford to ignore this alarming prediction â€” or the enthusiastic response it got from the audience in Beijing. In the 20th century, the two world wars were the only force powerful enough to reverse the concentration of wealth in the elite and the mounting class conflict; in the 21st century, we seem to be falling back into a comparable world of revolution, political extremism and mass violence. Read more ..
Israel on Edge
|Norman A. Bailey||February 7th 2015|
March 2015 is looking like it is going to be a very "interesting" month, to quote the well-known Chinese curse "May you live in interesting times".
First, Prime Minister Netanyahu will address the joint houses of Congress while he is in Washington to attend the annual AIPAC meeting.
Second, on the 17th, the elections take place in Israel. At this point they are entirely unpredictable as the maneuvering and jockeying proceed on what seems like an hourly basis...
Third, one week later, the 24th, is the latest "deadline" to reach an agreement between the six powers and Iran on the Iranian program to develop the ability to produce nuclear weapons.
The prime minister, John Boehner, Speaker of the House of Representatives and President Obama are engaged in a three-way political dance, each trying to gain political advantage from the impending address. Which will gain more from this exercise is not clear. Indeed, it is not clear that there will be any winner politically. Certainly relations between Israel and the Obama Administration, already bad have been getting worse and will continue to do so at a particularly crucial time. Read more ..
South of the Border
|Cameron McKibben||January 28th 2015|
The Northern Triangle countries, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, are often characterized by poverty and violence. With limited economic opportunities and individual security threatened by gang and drug violence, many citizens have opted to migrate north towards opportunity and safety.
An unprecedented number of migrants from Central America, including an increase in unaccompanied minors traveling north beginning in 2009 from an estimated 20,000 to over 50,000, have raised security and human rights concerns in the involved countries. These issues are not only pertinent to the United States and Mexico, but have had serious consequences in the Northern Triangle, which continues to suffer a significant human capital flight. An estimated 9 percent of the total Northern Triangle population has emigrated in recent years, with about 100,000 migrating to the United States yearly and 60 percent remaining as undocumented persons. Read more ..
The War on Terror
|Marialaura Conte||January 22nd 2015|
What is left after the viral and global outrage that led millions of people to the streets to express their identification with the victims of the massacre in Paris? The urgency to take the necessary steps to understand Islam and the radical challenge it poses to the West.
Clear, impacting, sensational. So must be in terroristâ€™s mind the message connected to his actions. He/she has no time to lose, he/she must obtain the most spectacular effect reaching as many targets as possible: hit the enemy, obtain a victory and this way glorify God. He/she wants to reach heaven, the reward for his/her courage.
What about the collateral damage, the innocent victims left on the ground? They're not a problem, because, above all, it is the intention of the action of the Jihadist that wins: affirm the truth of God eliminating the unfaithful. In this project the â€˜communicativeâ€™ question is of the maximum importance for the global radical Islamic terrorists.
This is demonstrated by their online magazines, websites, videos-releases which they spread, their skill in the use of social media, ideal places for recruiting new militants. And perhaps, with this â€˜media sensitivityâ€™ view, you can also understand the target chosen last 7 January, a target capable of provoking a global reaction like the one recorded by the principal Western newspapers: break into the newsroom of a weekly, when the editorial meeting is taking place and everybody is present and make a killing. Killing the signatures of a newspaper well-known (and even threatened) for its corrosive, controversial and debated satire in France, but also defended as a symbol of freedom of expression, the pride of French laicitÃ©. Read more ..
Europe on Edge
|George Friedman||January 20th 2015|
European media has been flooded for the past week with leaks about the European Central Bank's forthcoming plan to stimulate the faltering European economy by implementing quantitative easing. First carried by Der Spiegel and then picked up by other media, the story has not been denied by anyone at the bank nor any senior European official. We can therefore call this an official leak, because it lets everyone know what is coming before an official announcement is made later in the week.
The plan is an attempt to spur economic activity in Europe by increasing the amount of money available. It calls for governments to increase their borrowing for various projects designed to increase growth and decrease unemployment. Rather than selling the bonds on the open market, a move that would trigger a rise in interest rates, the bonds are sold to the central banks of eurozone member states, which have the ability to print new money. The money is then sent to the treasury. With more money flowing through the system, recessions driven by a lack of capital are relieved. This is why the measure is called quantitative easing. Read more ..
The Edge of Healthcare
|Sarah Ferris ||January 16th 2015|
Republicans are shifting their tactics on ObamaCare, an abrupt change from the partyâ€™s â€œrepeal-onlyâ€ rhetoric that dominated the last five years of debate.
The GOP is coalescing around the idea that incremental changes, rather than a sweeping repeal effort, can be more appealing to voters â€“ while also holding out the possibility of hollowing out the law from within.
In the past, some conservatives objected to any ObamaCare bills that fell short of full repeal. They argued it was impossible to fix the flawed legislation by doing anything other than fully repealing it.
When the newly GOP-controlled Senate votes on its first anti-ObamaCare legislation in the next few weeks, none of its members is expected to block the bills, according to aides and lobbyists familiar with discussions.
â€œIâ€™m guessing that theyâ€™ve had this â€˜squirrel finds a nutâ€™ moment of reasonableness,â€ one Senate GOP aide said.
The GOP remains far from consensus on how to handle the law, but threats from the partyâ€™s far-right members have largely faded as members look to show a GOP Congress can govern ahead of 2016, when the party hopes to retake the White House.
â€œIf we can show that we can lead, we might get an even bigger majority in 2016. We might get the White House,â€ the Republican aide said. â€œRepublicans can say, â€˜See, we were right? Put us in charge, and weâ€™ll repeal the whole damn thing.â€™â€ Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|Justin Sink and Scott Wong||January 12th 2015|
This could be the year of the veto for President Obama.
The White House and congressional Republicans are already in a pitched battle, less than a week into the 114th Congress.
Republicans are itching for a fight, eager to exploit their new control of the Senate to chip away at some of the presidentâ€™s signature policy initiatives.
They believe a flurry of vetoes could bolster their argument that itâ€™s Obama who is the real obstructionist in Washington â€” not congressional Republicans. Obama has been insulated up until now, with former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) blocking GOP-backed bills unpopular with Democrats â€” and so removing the need for Obama to pick up his veto pen. Read more ..
|Alexander Bolton||January 7th 2015|
Senate Republicans are reaching out to about nine Democrats they see as crucial swing votes in the new Congress.
With his 54-seat majority, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) is six votes short of overcoming Democratic filibusters, making bipartisan support a necessity for getting most legislation to President Obamaâ€™s desk.
Republicans have identified six go-to centrists: Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Mark Warner (Va.), Tim Kaine (Va.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.) and independent Sen. Angus King (Maine), who caucuses with the Democrats.
Several other Democrats, including Sens. Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Chris Coons (Del.), Tom Carper (Del.) and Martin Heinrich (N.M.), are also targets, though they are seen as riskier partners. Read more ..
America and Israel
|Steven J. Rosen||January 3rd 2015|
Most Israelis do not think the rise of Hamas, Hezbollah and ISIS makes this a great time to sign an agreement requiring the Israel Defense Force to leave the West Bank.
When Israel's former Prime Minister pulled every soldier and every settler out of Gaza in 2005, what happened after that withdrawal was the opposite of "land for peace." It does not inspire confidence that just signing a piece of paper will bring real peace.
The theory that friction will weaken Benjamin Netanyahu is unproven; the reverse could happen.
This is the first time since 2009 that the Obama Administration may think it has a credible opportunity to replace Benjamin Netanyahu with an Israeli government prepared to make more concessions to the Palestinians. The idea that Obama could have a more compliant partner in Jerusalem for the final eighteen months of his presidency has to excite his closest aides as they reach for achievements to crown the President's legacy. Read more ..
Russia on Edge
|George Friedman||December 16th 2014|
Last week I flew into Moscow, arriving at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 8. It gets dark in Moscow around that time, and the sun doesn't rise until about 10 a.m. at this time of the year — the so-called Black Days versus White Nights. For anyone used to life closer to the equator, this is unsettling. It is the first sign that you are not only in a foreign country, which I am used to, but also in a foreign environment. Yet as we drove toward downtown Moscow, well over an hour away, the traffic, the road work, were all commonplace. Moscow has three airports, and we flew into the farthest one from downtown, Domodedovo — the primary international airport. There is endless renovation going on in Moscow, and while it holds up traffic, it indicates that prosperity continues, at least in the capital. Read more ..
Europe on Edge
|Mark Fleming-Williams||December 11th 2014|
A bargain, forged in the fires of 2012's economic emergency, has defined the European Union for the past two years. It was an agreement made between two sides that can be defined in several terms — the center and the periphery, the north and the south, the producers and the consumers — but essentially one side, led by Germany, provided finance, while the other, fronted by Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Greece, promised change. In order to gauge this arrangement's chances of ultimately succeeding, it is important to understand what Germany was hoping to achieve with its conditional financing. The answer to that question lies in Germany's own history.
Last week, the Governing Council of the European Central Bank's monthly meeting left financial markets feeling frustrated. Instead of announcing the beginning of a highly anticipated bond-buying program known as quantitative easing, the European Central Bank, or ECB, only slightly changed the vocabulary it used to describe its plans: "We expect" became "we intend." Pulses did not race with excitement. Read more ..
|Michael Coren||December 2nd 2014|
My new book is entitled Hatred: Islam's War on Christianity. The day before it was published a soldier in my country of Canada was run down and killed by a convert to Islam who had wanted to travel to Syria to murder infidels but decided after the security services confiscated his passport to commit the crime closer to home.
The day after my book was published another soldier, standing guard by the war memorial in Ottawa with an unloaded gun, was also killed by a convert to Islam who had wanted to conduct slaughter in Syria.
From the bottom of my heart I wish the book was not so timely. But as grotesque as these crimes were, they are mere daily and sometimes hourly occurrences in countries where Muslims form a majority and Christians the minority. In Egypt, Pakistan, post-Saddam Iraq, Sudan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, northern Nigeria, even Indonesia and Turkey, Christians are never treated equally and are often persecuted, beaten, raped, forcibly converted, arrested, killed.
Let us take the example of just one country. Read more ..
|George Friedman||November 25th 2014|
Nuclear talks with Iran have failed to yield an agreement, but the deadline for a deal has been extended without a hitch. What would have been a significant crisis a year ago, replete with threats and anxiety, has been handled without drama or difficulty. This new response to yet another failure to reach an accord marks a shift in the relationship between the United States and Iran, a shift that can’t be understood without first considering the massive geopolitical shifts that have taken place in the Middle East, redefining the urgency of the nuclear issue.
These shifts are rooted in the emergence of the Islamic State. Ideologically, there is little difference between the Islamic State and other radical Islamic jihadist movements. But in terms of geographical presence, the Islamic State has set itself apart from the rest. While al Qaeda might have longed to take control of a significant nation-state, it primarily remained a sparse, if widespread, terrorist organization. It held no significant territory permanently; it was a movement, not a place. Read more ..
Israelis and Palestinians
|Richard L. Cravatts||November 21st 2014|
As an example of what the insightful commentator Melanie Phillips referred to as a “dialogue of the demented” in her book The World Turned Upside Down, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is continuing a long tradition of attempting to de-Judaize Jerusalem by expressing his mendacious notion that, as he put it, “Jerusalem has a special flavor and taste not only in our hearts, but also in the hearts of all Arabs and Muslims and Christians,” and “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Palestinian state and without it there will be no state.”
The same scholar of history who wrote a doctoral dissertation that questioned the extent and truthfulness of the Holocaust was now making his own historical claim that there had never been a Jewish presence and history in the world's holiest city. Read more ..
Obama's Second Term
|George Friedman||November 18th 2014|
We do not normally comment on domestic political affairs unless they affect international affairs. However, it is necessary to consider American political affairs because they are likely to have a particular effect on international relations. We have now entered the final phase of Barack Obama's presidency, and like those of several other presidents since World War II, it is ending in what we call a state of failure. This is not a judgment on his presidency so much as on the political configuration within it and surrounding it.
The midterm elections are over, and Congress and the president are in gridlock. This in itself is not significant; presidents as popular as Dwight Eisenhower found themselves in this condition. Read more ..
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